CARLSBAD, Calif. — There’s a gaping hole at shortstop, a question at catcher and everyone always needs pitching, even if the Yankees might require less of it than usual.
And Brian Cashman dropped an extra area of curiosity for the Yankees on Tuesday, one that reflects the organization’s feelings about Aaron Hicks.
“Obviously looking at shortstop,” Cashman said at the general managers’ meetings, “maybe center field.”
Hicks, who has suffered multiple serious injuries since signing a seven-year, $70 million extension prior to the 2019 season, played in just 32 games last season before going down due to a torn tendon sheath in his left wrist.
The 32-year-old, who has four years and over $40 million remaining on his contract, slashed a mere .194/.294/.333 while registering negative metrics on defense.
“He’s going to finish off his rehab and he very well might be our starting center fielder. I’m going to be open-minded in evaluating all opportunities,” Cashman said of Hicks. “We just want to make sure we put our best team out there. So no guarantees right now for anybody. Certainly some more than others. But Aaron Hicks was hurt, so he’s been off the board. He might play some winter ball. We’ll see. But in the meantime, center field was an area of concern this past year because of his injury.
“We’ll explore whatever options might be available to us and obviously we do have Aaron Hicks coming back. What that looks like, we’ll see.”
The top free-agent center field option is Starling Marte, 33, who enjoyed a strong 2021 season with the Marlins and A’s.
The man who started the most games in center field for the ’21 Yankees, Brett Gardner (124 including the American League wild-card game), is a free agent, and while Cashman saluted the 14-year veteran for being a great Yankees, he said the club hadn’t discussed the possibility of bringing back the 38-year-old.
If the Yankees did find another center fielder, Hicks could inherit the fourth-outfielder role the Yankees always envisioned for Gardner that never actually happened thanks to other outfielders, including Hicks, suffering injuries as Gardner stayed upright.
Aaron Judge proved himself to be an adept center fielder last season, Joey Gallo has played the position in the past and Cashman said the Yankees would put together their 2022 club with the idea that Giancarlo Stanton could contribute regularly as an outfielder, as he did at the close of last season.
As for another outfielder, Clint Frazier, who missed the season’s final three months due to dizziness, “I think there’s a lot of expectation and optimism that what transpired will not be an issue as he enters next season,” said Cashman, who declined to offer more specifics.
Frazier is doing baseball activities around his Georgia home, Cashman added.
CARLSBAD, Calif. — The lack of competition for managerial candidates has Mets president Sandy Alderson content to wait until after he hires a general manager before turning attention to the field staff.
“We do have one coach,” Alderson joked at the general managers’ meetings Tuesday, referring to pitching coach Jeremy Hefner, whose 2022 option was picked up last month.
Luis Rojas was informed on Oct. 4 that he wouldn’t be returning for a third season as manager. Most of the Mets’ attention since then has focused on finding their next baseball operations leader.
Alderson hinted he had interest in hiring Bob Melvin, who late last month was allowed to leave the Athletics for the Padres with one year remaining on his contract.
“We don’t really want to do this in reverse order and hire from the bottom up,” Alderson said. “There was a possibility of doing that earlier in the winter, but in order to do that you really have to have someone who is universally respected and would be recognized by virtually any executive as an outstanding choice. I don’t see that happening any time soon.”
Oakland has a managerial vacancy following Melvin’s departure, but Alderson said the expectation is that organization will fill it from within.
“In that sense we are not competing with three or four other clubs, which is not always the case in early November,” Alderson said. “We’re not complacent about it, but I think the circumstances are somewhat favorable just because of the lack of competition.”
Zack Scott, who spent most of this past season as the Mets’ acting GM, was fired last week, after having been placed on administrative leave in September, following his DWI arrest. Scott is awaiting a Dec. 8 trial in White Plains on those charges.
Alderson said Scott’s performance in his job was “excellent,” but a change was necessary.
“Just the general uncertainty around the situation that he faced and not knowing how that uncertainty would be resolved in December,” Alderson said. “I think we felt it was best for us and potentially for him as well that we made that decision.”
Alderson said he wasn’t surprised Michael Conforto plans to decline the Mets’ qualifying offer worth $18.4 million for next season. Will the Mets attempt to re-sign him?
“We’ll engage with most agents and most players and see where that takes us,” Alderson said.
It’s time to play Armchair GM.
Another MLB hot-stove season is upon us, with free agency underway and the league’s general managers (and Sandy Alderson) convening in Carlsbad, Calif. Both the Yankees and Mets have major needs after coming off of seasons that were disappointing to varying degrees.
Will either team reach for Carlos Correa, ranked by The Post’s Ken Davidoff as the best player on the free-agent market? Could Justin Verlander end up in New York after both local teams sent scouts to his workout Monday in Florida? Maybe the versatile veteran Marcus Semien could provide a boost to the middle infield in The Bronx or Queens.
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